The most exhausting thing about our politics these days — other than the never-ending presidential election itself — is the obsession with “shaping the narrative.” By that I mean the effort to connect the dots between a selective number of facts and statistics to support one storyline about the state of the union.
Narrative-building is essential for almost every complicated argument because it’s the only way to get our pattern-seeking brains to discount contradictory facts and data. Trial lawyers understand this implicitly. Get the jury to buy the story, and they’ll do the heavy lifting of arranging the facts in just the right way.
I’m not naive. Crafting stories to serve political purposes is as old as politics itself. But the problem seems to be getting worse. Perhaps it’s because our country is so polarized and our media environment so balkanized and instantaneous. Politicians and journalists alike feel compelled to make facts serve some larger tale in every utterance. The reality is that life is complicated and every well-crafted narrative leaves out important facts.
Jonah Goldberg, “Narrative-Building Has Become a Political Obsession”, National Review, 2016-09-28.
October 17, 2016
October 11, 2016
“pattybones2” discusses the fan experiences of Lois McMaster Bujold in those dim, far-distant days before the internet brought everything to your desk (tablet, phone, etc.):
When do you realize you were a Fangirl?
Before the term “fangirl” was invented. I started reading science fiction for grownups at about age nine, because my father, an engineering professor, used to buy the magazines and books to read on the plane when he went on consulting trips, and they fell to me. Got my first subscription to Analog Magazine at age 13. So when Star Trek came along in 1966, when I was in high school, the seed fell on already-fertile ground; it was an addition, not a revelation. At last, SF on TV that was almost as good as what I was reading, a miracle! I would have just called myself a fan then, or a reader, ungendered terms I note.
In my entire high school of 1,800 students, there was only one other genre reader I knew of (later we expanded to 4 or 6), my best friend Lillian, and she only because we traded interests; I got history from her, she got F&SF from me. So there was no one to be fans with, for the first while.
How has social media helped or hindered you?
It has provided a great way to reach my readers with the latest word about my works, and vice versa; it’s also an enormous distraction and time sink. What I learn from it all makes it come out pretty even, I think. But due to the distraction issues, I keep my e-footprint small, mainly my Goodreads blog. Goodreads has also provided a handy way for fans to ask questions. 280 answered questions so far, so if you want to read more Bujold blether, there you go.
September 19, 2016
Look at Mad Men, the widely acclaimed TV series about Madison Avenue in the ’60s. (It starts back up April 5.) One of the things the show is acclaimed for is its authenticity, which is significant because, if the show really is authentic, then people in the advertising industry back then spent roughly 90% of their time smoking, drinking or having extramarital sex.
If Mad Men really is authentic, it explains much about the TV commercials of my childhood, which, in terms of intellectual content, make the commercials of today look like Citizen Kane. Back then many commercials featured a Male Authority Figure in the form of an actor pretending to be a doctor or scientist. Sometimes, to indicate how authoritative he was, he wore a white lab coat. The Male Authority Figure usually spoke directly to the camera, sometimes using charts or diagrams to explain important scientific facts, such as that certain brands of cigarettes could actually soothe your throat, or that Anacin could stop all three known medical causes of headaches:
1. Electrical bolts inside your head.
2. A big coiled spring inside your head.
3. A hammer pounding inside your head.
Another standard character in those old commercials was the Desperately Insecure Housewife, who was portrayed by an actress in a dress. The Desperately Insecure Housewife always had some hideous inadequacy as a homemaker — her coffee was bitter, her laundry detergent was ineffective against stains, etc. She couldn’t even escape to the bathroom without being lectured on commode sanitation by a tiny man rowing a rowboat around inside her toilet tank.
Even back then, everybody thought these commercials were stupid. But it wasn’t until years later, when I started watching Mad Men, that I realized why they were so stupid: The people making them were so drunk they had the brain functionality of road salt.
Dave Barry, “The Greatest (Party) Generation”, Wall Street Journal, 2015-02-26.
August 31, 2016
Published on 29 Aug 2016
Remy is back to highlight what CNN considers news.
Written and performed by Remy. Music Mastered by Ben Karlstrom. Shot and Edited by Austin Bragg.
About 2 minutes.
Subscribe to Reason TV’s YouTube channel to get automatic notifications when new material go live.
Finally, what has gotten into Russia’s top Olympian?
More on that later as we yield for Breaking News.
Ed? Thank You.
Breaking news that’s horribly tragic
and if your children are watching, we warn you, it’s graphic
our lead story tonight atop the report
was Donald Trump eating chicken with a knife and a fork?
Plus, this Trump supporter is 11 years old
so what are his thoughts on the — are you reading the scroll?
who he thinks is best fit to lead us
and would he have voted for Obamacare he was a fetus?
Look, I really don’t mean to step on your staging
but it seems like there’s war and some battles are raging
reporting the news — is that not our vow?
You know what, you’re right. I’ll cover it now
Well the war continues (yes!) on Twitter as planned (no…)
between Donald Trump and a Littleton man
The fighting is fierce, no sight of the end
follow it all on our app — you’re watching CNN
What I mean’s while we’re reading these trivial mysteries
people are dying, we’re losing our liberties
They’re inside our…wow…isn’t that banned?
Inside our hardware. I understand.
They could be in your phone at this very moment
Pokemons! This town is Pokemon Go-ing
Plus, this expensive beer — how hoppy’s the taste?
Fareed Zakaria is here to copy and paste.
Look, I really just think that there’s stuff that we missed
Like, holy crap, is that true? Does that list exist?
Cover the news. Shake up the ranks.
Yes! Do that. I’d lost my way. Thanks.
Well it’s a hidden document upon which fates swing
Fortune cookie fortunes — who’s writing those things!?
Plus, a man with no parachute just took a dive
in today’s most newsworthy instance of one flung from the sky
I know this is tough so forgive the belittling
Rome is engulfed and we’re sitting here fiddling
executive orders, economy stuttering
these are the stories we’re sitting here covering?
War in Afghanistan, hurt in Iraq
you’d need $5 foot-longs for Turkey this bad
Can we cut his mic?
Well, the war on whistleblowers continued today
we’ll update the condition of that Little League referee
Plus, it took the Olympics by storm, but what is it like to cup someone?
Josh Duggar is in the studio…
August 27, 2016
Louisiana floods. Tens of thousands flee their destroyed homes. Billions of dollars in damage. Unknown number of deaths. Huge natural disaster.
But several days in and I’m still running into people who are like, huh? A flood in Louisiana? You mean Hurricane Katrina, right? They haven’t heard a thing about it.
That’s because the American news media looks at every single event and asks itself a few simple questions before they decide how much coverage to give something.
First, is there anything we can milk from this story to bolster our worldview? Y/N
Yes. Cover the shit out of it 24/7 breathless panic attack, and demands that we DO SOMETHING. (said something is almost always give the government more power).
Second, is there anything in this story which could potentially make democrats look bad? Y/N
Yes? What emails? Fuck you.
No? See #3.
Third, is there anything in this story which will make republicans look stupid or evil? Y/N
Yes? Holy shit! Run it! Run it! New Orleans has been utterly destroyed because George Bush controls the weather and hates black people and his incompetence and evil racism has ruined this once beautiful American icon of– (and put that on a loop for the next three weeks)
No? Do we need any filler?
#2 and #3 are for most major media since they predominantly swing left, but for Fox you can just flip the democrat/republican, and they’re just as bad.
Fourth, does this event in some way affect us personally? Y/N
Yes? DROP EVERYTHING! RUN THIS OR WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!
No? Eh… we’ll talk about it for a minute if we’re not too busy.
Larry Correia, “The American News Media Sucks”, Monster Hunter Nation, 2016-08-19.
August 25, 2016
At Reason, Glenn Garvin looks at the role government subsidies had in the survival of the Cunard Line and the building of the RMS Queen Mary:
The most interesting thing about the Queen Mary, which for several decades was the largest passenger ship ever built, is not the 20-foot propellers so perfectly balanced that they could be spun with a flick of the wrist; or the 35,000 tons of metal that went into its construction; or the 10 million rivets that hold the whole thing together. It’s not even the still-mysterious question of how the ship became the springboard for the very first cheap-shot joke about Joan Collins. (Q. What’s the difference between Joan Collins and the Queen Mary? A. It takes a few tugs to get the Queen Mary out of her slip.)
No, the really special thing about the Queen Mary is that it was one of the epic government bailout boondoggles of the 20th century. In 1931, barely a year into the ship’s construction, the Cunard line went broke. The British dutifully forked over a loan of a staggering 9.5 million pounds — that’s $684 million in 2016 dollars — to keep the company afloat (dreadful pun not intended until I actually typed it). Which, as the documentary Mighty Ship at War: The Queen Mary notes, saved a whopping 2,000 jobs — at $342,000 a pop, I can only conclude that shipping lines employ a lot more neurosurgeons than I was aware — and, more importantly, England’s image: “Great Britain was at risk of losing its reputation as the world’s leading maritime nation.”
Its wide-eyed admiration of pork-slinging statecraft aside, Mighty Ship at War is a peppy and quite watchable little documentary about an oddball chapter in maritime history: the conversion of luxury liners into troop transports during World War II. When war broke out in Europe in 1939, unleashing German submarine wolfpacks on commercial shipping in the Atlantic, the cruise ships were drafted just like able-bodied men. They even got the maritime equivalent of a GI haircut, repainted a dull naval gray while their posh staterooms were ripped out to make way for towering stacks of bunks.
Even before its military makeover, Mighty Ship at War relates, the Queen Mary had found its business model remade by Europe’s gathering war clouds. Because the ship’s London-to-New York route included a stop in Cherbourg, France, it became the escape route of choice for many Jews fleeing Europe. Even families of modest means often traveled in plutocratic splendor, blowing their life savings on first-class tickets, because the Germans would confiscate any money or valuables the refugees tried to carry with them. “Give the money to the Brits, not the damn Nazis,” one refugee who made the crossing as a small child remembers his parents saying. By early 1939, every London departure of the Queen Mary was sold out.
August 15, 2016
Lisa de Moraes explains why the cast and crew of the new CBS comedy are being attacked on social media for their insensitivity to the plight of Millennials:
War broke out today between millennial media and the cast and creators of CBS’ new comedy series The Great Indoors, in which Joel McHale stars as an adventure reporter who becomes boss to a group of millennials in the digital department of their magazine. […]
It started when EP Mike Gibbons, who noted that 40 is the new 80, mentioned that CBS focus-grouped the pilot, and the millennial in the group said he did not like it because of the jokes about millennials being coddled, too sensitive and thin-skinned. The woman running the focus group, Gibbons said, clarified: “So, you were offended by millennials being portrayed as too sensitive.”
A Millennial Media Member interrupted Gibbons. “I’m a millennial myself. How are we so coddled, and what about our overly politically correct workplace bothers you?” she asked, like she meant it to sting.
Stephen Fry, who co-stars as the charismatic founder of The Great Outdoors magazine, who is a world traveler, explorer and adventurer, jumped in to note there is “an element of coddling” and “an element in which you have it tougher than the generation before.”
Another media member, non-millennial, asked Gibbons if he was “worried” that the show would be dismissed as “middle-aged white guy complaining about his lot in life and having to deal with millennials.”
Joked Gibbons, “Our show is going to make America great again”.
“So you are the Trump show?” Non-Millennial Media Member snapped back. “I’m just seeking clarification.”
“Irony comes through in print, right?” Gibbons quipped.
H/T to Small Dead Animals for the link.
July 27, 2016
Colby Cosh says that the media really is a world unto itself and it’s difficult for denizens of that world to pretend to be part of our mundane world:
Why are the news media so disliked? On Sunday, New York Magazine published some results from a “navel-gazing questionnaire” it sent to about a hundred reporters, editors, and broadcasters. (Is there a term for gazing at someone else’s navel-gazing?) About half the answers it printed acknowledged that journalism is practised by a particular class whose members all have similar life histories, and that this class is vulnerable to urban liberal groupthink. Half the respondents, by contrast, preferred the “corporate/Republican Satan running amok in the world” theory. At least one person apparently thought it was all the fault of the Broadway hit Hamilton. And, obviously, there is some truth to all three of these explanations.
But perhaps the best one, which nobody gave, might be that we in “the media” spend a lot of time encouraging ourselves to be hated.
The word “profession” is defined here as a job in which a practitioner might sometimes speak of outsiders, or “civilians,” as being of a different order of humanity. When you take up journalism as a career, you agree to accept ethical and behavioural responsibilities that do not pertain to the general public. Like a priest or therapist, some things are forbidden to you that are not forbidden to others. You are also unofficially licensed to do some unusual things — ask intrusive questions, barge into certain settings. Sometimes you may be asked to quiz the grieving, interrogate athletes or politicians in the aftermath of public humiliation, photograph the wounded and dead. The journalism trade also has a large bundle of legends, jargon, and traditions. All of this was equally true a hundred years ago, before there were “J-schools.”
This serves to create a real, unspoken bond between practising journalists. There are the folk who have deadlines, and there are the Others. And the Others will never totally understand. Any professional journalist who denies having this habit of mind is lying.
But you cannot think of yourself as set apart from the world without having it show through in your writing and speech, affecting your preferences and interests. Journalists are constantly making self-deprecating, incoherent apologies for being part of a priesthood, yet most of them clearly think the existence of some such thing necessary to a liberal democracy. Well, we would, wouldn’t we? But it is hard to like, or even bear, someone who thinks that way. And that goes double if the thought is factually true.
July 24, 2016
Every 4 years the GOP nominee is literally Hitler. A few years later — sometimes, as in Mitt Romney’s case, as few as 4 years after he was accused of giving a woman cancer — that formerly-Hitler nominee becomes the standard of once-great GOP nominees to which the current nominee fall short.
Glenn Reynolds, “LIZ CROKIN: Trump Does The Unthinkable”, Instapundit, 2016-07-11.
July 20, 2016
At Instapundit, Ed Driscoll points out the difference in the way the media covered the rise of Barack Obama compared to other politicians:
The blogger Ace of Spades has written about “The MacGuffinization of American Politics.” As Ace wrote, “For Obama’s fanbois, this is not politics. This isn’t even America, not really, not anymore. This is a movie. And Barack Obama is the Hero. And the Republicans are the Villains. And policy questions — and Obama’s myriad failures as an executive — are simply incidental. They are MacGuffins only, of no importance whatsoever, except to the extent they provide opportunities for Drama as the Hero fights in favor of them.”
The media never covered Obama as though he was a normal politician submitting bills to Congress and meeting with foreign leaders. Instead, they covered him as though he was Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart in an epic film as directed by Alfred Hitchcock, hence Ace’s name – the MacGuffin was the otherwise meaningless object that all the characters in an adventure movie desperately want. The microfilm in North By Northwest. The Soviet decoding device in From Russia With Love. The Death Star plans in Star Wars. The Ark of the Covenant, etc.
But I think it’s safe to say that all young people, or the vast majority of them, want to feel their life is some form of an epic quest for adventure, hence the near-universal popularity of films like the original (1977) Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings movies, or Batman Begins, all of which start off with their protagonist depicted as a callow youth, who precedes to then overcomes two hours worth of adversity, to emerge by the time the credits role as The Hero. As Joseph Campbell wrote in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, this quest for adventure is hardwired into most people, all the way back to Homer. (The author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, not the nuclear plant worker who lives in Springfield.) Up until recently, most teenagers felt a similar sense of accomplishment and pride through such traditional avenues as academic advancement, athletic success, or learning a musical instrument.
July 18, 2016
If there’s anyone more qualified than Luttwak (author of Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook (1968)) to discuss the recent coup attempt against President Erdoğan and his government, they must have been participants:
Rule No. 2 in planning a successful military coup is that any mobile forces that are not part of the plot — and that certainly includes any fighter jet squadrons — must be immobilized or too remote to intervene. (Which is why Saudi army units, for example, are based far from the capital.) But the Turkish coup plotters failed to ensure these loyal tanks, helicopters, and jets were rendered inert, so instead of being reinforced as events unfolded, the putschists were increasingly opposed. But perhaps that scarcely mattered because they had already violated Rule No. 1, which is to seize the head of the government before doing anything else, or at least to kill him.
The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was left free to call out his followers to resist the attempted military coup, first by iPhone and then in something resembling a televised press conference at Istanbul’s airport. It was richly ironic that he was speaking under the official portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey’s modern secular state, because Erdoğan’s overriding aim since entering politics has been to replace it with an Islamic republic by measures across the board: from closing secular high schools so as to drive pupils into Islamic schools to creeping alcohol prohibitions to a frenzied program of mosque-building everywhere — including major ex-church museums and university campuses, where, until recently, headscarves were prohibited.
Televised scenes of the crowds that came out to oppose the coup were extremely revealing: There were only men with mustaches (secular Turks rigorously avoid them) with not one woman in sight. Moreover, their slogans were not patriotic, but Islamic — they kept shouting “Allahu ekber” (the local pronunciation of “akbar”) and breaking out into the Shahada, the declaration of faith.
Richly ironic, too, was the prompt and total support of U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the European Union’s hapless would-be foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, in the name of “democracy.” Erdogan has been doing everything possible to dismantle Turkey’s fragile democracy: from ordering the arrest of journalists who criticized him, including the outright seizure and closure of the country’s largest newspaper, Zaman, to the very exercise of presidential power, since Turkey is not a presidential republic like the United States or France, but rather a parliamentary republic like Germany or Italy, with a mostly ceremonial president and the real power left to the prime minister. Unable to change the constitution because his Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not have enough votes in parliament, Erdogan instead installed the slavishly obedient (and mustachioed) Binali Yildirim as prime minister — his predecessor, Ahmet Davutoglu, had been very loyal, but not quite a slave — and further subverted the constitutional order by convening cabinet meetings under his own chairmanship in his new 1,000-room palace: a multibillion-dollar, 3.2 million-square-foot monstrosity (the White House is approximately 55,000 square feet), which was built without authorized funding or legal permits in a nature reserve.
July 16, 2016
Michael van der Galien on the coup attempt against Turkish president Erdoğan:
It’s a done deal: the military coup has failed. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AK Parti remain in power and vow to take revenge against those behind the coup.
Or, perhaps better said: against those they say are behind it.
Now that the coup has clearly failed, we can conclude that this must have been the most incompetent attempted takeover in Turkey’s troubled history. When part of the military launched their offensive last night (Turkish time), I immediately checked news channels supporting President Erdoğan. Surprisingly, none of them were taken over. The only broadcaster that was taken over was TRT Haber, the state news channel. But NTV and other channels supporting Erdoğan were left alone.
That was remarkable, but what struck me even more was the fact that these channels — especially NTV — were able to talk to the president and the prime minister. That’s strange, to put it mildly. Normally, when the military stages a coup, the civilian rulers are among the first to be arrested. After all, as long as the country’s civilian leadership are free, they can tell forces supportive of them what to do… and they can even tell the people to rise up against the coup.
And that’s exactly what happened. Both Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called into news programs and told their supporters to go out on the streets and fight back against the soldiers. A short while later, streets in the big cities (Ankara and Izmir) were flooded with Erdoğan supporters, who even climbed on top of tanks. Fast forward a few hours and it was officially announced that the coup had failed, and that Erdoğan and his AK Party remained in power. About 1500 soldiers were arrested.
As I wrote on Twitter yesterday, there were three options:
- The coup was staged by a small group within the military, which would severely limit their ability to strike.
- The coup was staged by the entire military, which meant Erdoğan’s chances of surviving politically were extremely small.
- The coup was a set-up. Think the Reichstag fire.
The main argument against option number three is that there was some very serious fighting taking place, including massive explosions. Dozens of people have been killed. If this was a fake coup, it probably was the bloodiest one ever. That’s why many people are skeptical about this option, and believe it was just an incompetent attempt at a military takeover.
June 17, 2016
Here’s what Clarkson confessed to the Sunday Times:
TO JUDGE from the letters I get and the remarks in the street, it seems the most memorable thing I did on Top Gear was a short segment about the Reliant Robin. You may remember: I drove it around Sheffield and it kept falling over.
Well, now’s the time to come clean. A normal Reliant Robin will not roll unless a drunken rugby team is on hand. Or it’s windy. But in a headlong drive to amuse and entertain, I’d asked the backroom boys to play around with the differential so that the poor little thing rolled over every time I turned the steering wheel.
Naturally, the health and safety department was very worried about this and insisted that the car be fitted with a small hammer that I could use, in case I was trapped after the roll, to break what was left of the glass.
Reliant sold plenty of cheap, usable little three-wheelers, and somehow managed to never be charged for crimes against humanity. The cars weren’t the most stable things in the world (no pointy-fronted three-wheeler is) but they certainly didn’t tumble around like a roofie’d Mary Lou Retton at every turn.
Jason Torchinsky, “Clarkson Reveals Bombshell: Top Gear Modified Reliant Robins To Make Them Roll”, Jalopnik, 2016-01-13.
March 30, 2016
It was apparently quite a surprise when Jeremy Clarkson, formerly of the BBC TV show Top Gear, came out in favour of Britain staying within the European Union. Patrick West explains why it shouldn’t surprise anyone at all:
While Top Gear was a vehicle in which to issue mischievous slights about Indians and Mexicans, not a series seemed to pass without a snide remark from Clarkson about people from Birmingham. Or Liverpool. Or Scotland. Or the north of England. Or the West Country. In fact, anywhere outside London. His Sunday Times column over the years has been the same.
As he once observed: ‘Provincial Britain is probably one of the most depressing places on earth… the towns, with their pedestrian precincts and the endless parade of charity shops and estate agents… There is nothing you want to see. Nothing you want to do. You wade knee-deep through a sea of discarded styrofoam trays smeared with bits of last night’s horseburger… for the most part urban Britain is utterly devoid of any redeeming feature whatsoever.’ Here, Clarkson displays all the prejudices of a sneering, metropolitan, right-on BBC comedian. As a paid-up member of the snide establishment, Clarkson is ideal pro-EU material.
Among those who urge us to remain in the EU, a certain type of patrician class has been emerging. Its members may hail from different political traditions, but among them we find rich, privately educated, well-mannered, conspicuously cosmopolitan, paternal and patronising types, people who work in entertainment or big business, and many of whom have a material interest for wanting to remain in the EU: dirt-cheap, servile foreign labour; pliant Czech nannies; and second homes in Tuscany and the south of France.
Ever since Clarkson dropped his Yorkshire accent, he has sought to become part of that elite. And now that he is a member of an executive club, why else wouldn’t he want to remain part of another: the EU?
Published on 7 Apr 2015
Bundling refers to when two or more goods are sold together as a package. Microsoft Office, Cable TV, Lexis-Nexis, and Spotify all provide examples of bundling. What if there were no bundling and you had to pay for Cable TV by channel rather than purchasing channels in bundles? Would you end up paying more or less? We explore this question and others in this video.